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Ghost-Writer

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In the sixth edition of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary hyphens were removed from 16,000 entries. Nevertheless, Michael Hollinger has left the little line in the title of his latest play, Ghost-Writer (now in its west coast premiere at Long Beach’s International City Theatre, through September 16). That Hollinger included the dash-like mark in the script’s moniker not only distinguishes it from the more customary spelling, ghostwriter, but also from the recent Roman Polanski film, The Ghost Writer. What’s more, this pesky piece of punctuation serves to underscore the persnicketiness of professional writers.

Inspired by a true-life tale about Henry James’ typist, Theodora Bosanquet, who claimed in the book The Iron Whim: A Fragmented History of Typewriting that she channeled dictation from the author after his death, Hollinger’s conceit gives us typist and protagonist Myra Babbage (an intensely believable Paige Lindsey White). Talking to the audience as if we were the journalist reporting her story, Myra details her initial collaborations with the rigorous writer Franklin Woolsely (Leland Crooke, in a credibly repressed mode), the painstaking professional relationship they create, and how she remains dedicated to finishing Woolsey’s last book – even subsequent to his demise. She types the words which she claims belong to Franklin.

Under caryn desai’s (sic) meticulous direction, the play alternates flashback scenes of Myra and Franklin’s workaday world juxtaposed with Myra’s here and now justifications of what many accusers – including Franklin’s meddlesome wife, Vivian (well played, with striking haughtiness, by Cheryl David) – believe to be a rapacious ploy perpetrated by a gifted pretender hoping to cash-in on the late Franklin’s good name and authorship.

On a period-perfect set designed by Staci Walters, with impressive early twentieth-century costuming by Kim DeShazo, a timely lighting design by Donna Ruzika, and exquisite sound work by Dave Mickey, Ghost-Writer is not a ghost story. Rather, it’s a mystery that unfolds in a thoughtful and thought provoking manner.

In an hour and-a-half, with no intermission, questions of punctuation (Myra says of Franklin, “He would provide the words, I the punctuation); originality (“One never knows when the words will come,” says Myra); and creativity abound. Words such as “enervate,” “somnolent” and “surreptitious” are marvelously utilized throughout the script serving to uplift the dialogue while not insulting the audience’s intelligence.

Ghost-Writer is a corporeal incarnation of some ethereal notions. From where does creativity arise? Are muses merely symbolic entities; or, can they be called upon like spirits in séance? Ghost-Writer gives no answers, but the exploration of these sorts of questions makes for an engaging experience in the theater.

Ghost-Writer continues at the International City Theater – 300 East Ocean Boulevard, Long Beach – though September 16. Evening performances are Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 8 p.m. Matinees are on Sundays at 2 p.m. For reservations, dial (562) 436 – 4610. For online ticketing and further information, visit www.ictlongbeach.org.


 

Spotlight

Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”

ABOUT ELLEN RICHARD

Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.